On April 21, the Government of India has rubbished the claims that India exported 9,884 MT of medical oxygen from January 2021 to March 2021. Some reports in mainstream media have suggested that India has exported nearly 9,300 MT of oxygen in financial year ending 31st March 2021.
On April 20, 2021, Moneycontrol claimed that India exported nearly 9,300 metric tonnes of oxygen in first three months of 2021. Money Control did not specify whether the exported oxygen was medical oxygen, fit for patients, thereby adding to panic.
Similar report was shared by News18 citing moneycontrol report. Soon, the article was shared by many social media users, thereby creating a panic-like situation in India where medical oxygen is currently facing supply issues.
According government, however, these reports are misleading. As per sources the media reports are passing off industrial grade oxygen for medical oxygen and the two are completely different.
Malicious propaganda is being spread that India had exported scarce medical oxygen during the pandemic year of 2020-21. This is absolutely false and industrial oxygen exports are being mistaken as medical oxygen: Government sources— ANI (@ANI) April 21, 2021
The sources in government further added that there are two categories of exports of liquid oxygen that are medical and others (industrial). During April-February 2020-21, India indeed exported 9884 MT of industrial oxygen, but the amount of medical oxygen exported was only 12 MT.
Majority of these industrial oxygen export was in Dec & Jan when medical oxygen consumption reduced to 1418 MT/day from 2675 MT/day in Sept-this against near 7000 MT/day capacity resulted in no threat to medical oxygen supply while protecting jobs in oxygen industry: Govt sources— ANI (@ANI) April 21, 2021
The annual export of medical oxygen only comprises of 0.4% of the total annual production capacity in the country. The majority of the industrial oxygen exports took place in December 2020, and January 2021 was the medical oxygen consumption in India had reduced by half to 1418 MT/day from a peak of 2,675 MT/day in September 2020.
The dramatic reduction in the supply at the time when India had a production capacity of 7000 MT/day allowed India to export oxygen as there was no threat to medical oxygen supply. It also helped in protecting jobs in the oxygen industry.
As per the government stats, India exported 15,000 MT tonnes of oxygen in 2016-17 while the export of medical oxygen was 229.82 in the same period.
In the next few years, the demand for oxygen reduced, resulting in a fall in export. In 2019-20 India exported 4,328 MT of oxygen while medical oxygen export during the same period was only 9.62 MT.
Industrial oxygen cannot be used for medical purposes
In a letter reffered to the Railway plant which wanted to use its industrial supply for medical purposes, PK Borah, Deputy General Manager, Premier Cryogenics Ltd. said, that Industrial Liquid Oxygen cannot be used for Medical purposes.
In his letter, he said that their tankers are supplying industrial liquid oxygen and the same cannot be used for medical purposes.
The government of India has banned oxygen export
Amidst the rise in Covid-19 cases, the Government of India has already banned the use of Oxygen in industries except nine. The government of India has ramped up the oxygen production in India by several folds to meet the demand. Notably, corporate has also come forward to help in oxygen supply.
Tata, Reliance, Jindal and other corporate houses have diverted industrial oxygen to medical oxygen production so that it can help in saving the lives of Covid-19 patients. State governments like Uttar Pradesh and Government agencies like DRDO are also establishing oxygen generation plants in hospitals to ensure uninterrupted oxygen supply.